Where the Animals Are Part of the Party: Lincoln Park Zoo Ball

One of Chicago’s crown jewels is Lincoln Park Zoo, which remains free and open to the public 365 days a year.

Behind the glitter of that crown jewel is a lot of sleeves-rolled-up hard work. One group, the Lincoln Park Zoo Women’s Board, makes an annual contribution to the Zoo’s operating budget and to Nature Boardwalk through its Lincoln Park Zoo Ball, now in its 35th year.

From 6:30 p.m. to midnight on Fri., July 13, the Zoo will welcome partygoers to a glamorous black-tie evening of cocktails, entertainment, dancing and gourmet dining.

‘The Great Catsby’ will be the Zoo’s take on a modern-day summer party in the Hamptons.

“It will be a bright, colorful, happy party,” says event co-chair Cynthia Ross Polayes of Chicago. “While the dinner and dancing take place under the tent, guests are free to roam zoo grounds during the evening.”

“The Zoo Ball is hands down the best outdoor summer party in the city,” says event co-chair Suzanne A. Meder of Chicago. “While most other benefits are indoors, Zoo Ball is outdoors and on the zoo grounds. We tent portions of the zoo so guests can enjoy dinner and dancing throughout the night.”

“The Great Catsby” will celebrate the Zoo’s most marvelous mammals – cats. From an on-site Leopard Lounge to a few special surprises, Zoo Ball honors the Zoo’s fantastic felines. The event is expected to raise more than $1 million, thanks to the large silent auction, which includes packages from Neiman Marcus, the Four Seasons hotel, United and Sidney Garber.

Polayes says that being on the Women’s Board has been enormously rewarding.

“I grew up in Evanston, and as a child my parents used to bring me to the zoo. After graduating from Kellogg, I moved to Lincoln Park—and the zoo has been a part of my life ever since. It is a unique institution—in that it touches so many lives. The fact that it is free allows access to everyone, and I am especially impressed that the zoo is privately managed,” she says.

Individual tickets are available for $600 per person, and table packages begin at $6,000. For more information on tickets to Zoo Ball, please contact the Zoo Ball office at [email protected] or by calling 312-742-2296.

Photo: Event co-chairs Suzanne A. Meder and Cynthia Ross Polayes